Women Resist the Crisis in Healthcare
October 23rd 9pm ET, 8pm CT, 7pm MT and 6pm PT
sposored by The
CCDS Socialist Education Project
4th Monday Program
Healthcare is truly in crisis with the attack agains reproductive rights. But not just there but in all areas with women of color suffering the most. Join us to discuss this and steps to turn this around!
This will also be live streamed at OUL facebook page
Mildred Williamson- PhD, MSW, has spent her career in public service with human rights/social justice as her passion. She has more than 30 years of experience in developing and leading public health safety net programs for vulnerable populations. She has held a number of positions
over the years within the Cook County Health (CCH) system. She was the first administrator of the Women and Children HIV Program, which today, ispart of the Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center,
Kathy Sykes- Kathy is a native of Jackson, Mississippi. She has worked as a grassroots community organizer and political consultant for over 20 years. Kathy Sykes was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives in 2015 to 2019.Kathy worked for the MS State Department of Health in Immunization and as a Service Coordinator for First Steps.
Marilyn Albert- Marilyn retired Registered Nurse, and has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for about 12 years. She has worked for over 40 years as a hospital nurse and health care workers union organizer, and has been active in the movement for single payer health care since the 1970s.
Jewish Voices for Peace Statment
CCDS Peace and Solidarity Committee endorses this statement
The Root of Violence Is Oppression.
Right now, Palestinians, Israelis and all of us with family on the ground are terrified for loved ones. We grieve the lives of those already lost and remain committed to a future where every life is precious, and all people live in freedom and safety.
Following 16 years of Israeli military blockade, Palestinian fighters from Gaza launched an unprecedented assault, in which hundreds of Israelis were killed and wounded, and civilians kidnapped. The Israeli government declared war, launching airstrikes, killing hundreds of Palestinians and wounding thousands, bombing residential buildings and threatening to commit war crimes against besieged Palestinians in Gaza.
The Israeli government may have just declared war, but its war on Palestinians started over 75 years ago. Israeli apartheid and occupation — and United States complicity in that oppression — are the source of all this violence. Reality is shaped by when you start the clock.
For the past year, the most racist, fundamentalist, far-right government in Israeli history has ruthlessly escalated its military occupation over Palestinians in the name of Jewish supremacy with violent expulsions and home demolitions, mass killings, military raids on refugee camps, unrelenting siege and daily humiliation. In recent weeks, Israeli forces repeatedly stormed the holiest Muslim sites in Jerusalem.
For 16 years, the Israeli government has suffocated Palestinians in Gaza under a draconian air, sea and land military blockade, imprisoning and starving two million people and denying them medical aid. The Israeli government routinely massacres Palestinians in Gaza; ten-year-olds who live in Gaza have already been traumatized by seven major bombing campaigns in their short lives.
For 75 years, the Israeli government has maintained a military occupation over Palestinians, operating an apartheid regime. Palestinian children are dragged from their beds in pre-dawn raids by Israeli soldiers and held without charge in Israeli military prisons. Palestinians homes are torched by mobs of Israeli settlers, or destroyed by the Israeli army. Entire Palestinian villages are forced to flee, abandoning the homes and orchards and land that were in their family for generations.
The bloodshed of today and the past 75 years traces back directly to U.S. complicity in the oppression and horror caused by Israel’s military occupation. The U.S. government consistently enables Israeli violence and bears blame for this moment. The unchecked military funding, diplomatic cover, and billions of dollars of private money flowing from the U.S. enables and empowers Israel’s apartheid regime. Those who continue calling for “ironclad” U.S. support for the Israeli military are only paving the path to more violence.
From the U.S., there are no sidelines. We will uproot complicity where we are: we demand that the U.S. government immediately take steps to withdraw military funding to Israel and to hold the Israeli government accountable for its gross violations of human rights and war crimes against Palestinians. We commit to escalating our campaigns for boycott, divestment and sanctions to end the billions pouring into the Israeli war machine from corporations and private foundations.
Inevitably, oppressed people everywhere will seek — and gain — their freedom. We all deserve liberation, safety, and equality. The only way to get there is by uprooting the sources of the violence, beginning with our own government’s complicity.
In a drop of water
Please YOU, who orders bombs and missiles
to fall on cities and villages
For one moment,
pause and glance
at the drop of water
perched on the glass
sitting on your desk,
for in it
you will see the last moments
of existence of a child
before she is atomized.
David Schwartzman, Revised from 1999, December 18, 2008
Gov. Newsom today signed SB 770,
our guaranteed healthcare bill
from Healthy California Now
Today is a momentous day in the fight for transformational healthcare reform. Gov. Gavin Newsom has signed SB 770, the universal care bill that Healthy California Now sponsored to put California on the path toward single-payer health care.
Our bill will advance the work of Gov. Newsom’s Healthy California For All Commission, which found that transitioning to a healthcare system envisioned by SB 770 would avert 4,000 deaths per year, and save Californians $158 billion per year in healthcare spending by 2031.
To put the commission’s recommendations into action, SB 770 directs California’s Secretary of Health and Human Services to pursue discussions with federal authorities regarding the potential terms of waivers necessary for California to secure its full share of federal healthcare funds for a better healthcare system that insures everyone. The agency will be required to:
- Present a detailed draft report for legislative review and public comment by June 1, 2025, and
- Publish a final plan by November 1, 2025 so that it could move forward with formal federal waiver applications in early 2026.
Getting SB 770 passed into law is a huge achievement for our movement, but there is much work still to be done. We’re grateful to Gov. Newsom for signing the bill, and we’re excited to work with his administration and the legislature to implement it through the collaborative path it establishes.
We are also grateful for the collective efforts of SB 770 champions Senator Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) as well as Healthy California Now’s broad coalition of member organizations and the organizations which supported SB 770 all of whom worked so hard to get our bill across the finish line.
This is such an exciting time for our movement! If you have not already, become a coalition member. Visit https://healthyca.org/join/ to join.
Be sure to mail Jessica@healthyca.org to attend our next advocates table on October 25, 2023
Participants hold signs during the Senate Democrats’ rally against Medicaid cuts in front of the US Capitol in June 2017., Bill Clark / CQ Roll Call via AP Images
The Great Medicaid Unwinding
October 6, 2023
The Nation via Portside
Millions of Americans lost their coverage earlier this year when a pandemic-era policy expired. The consequences are detrimental to the very practice of medicine.
Ronald Reagan’s ascent to the presidency delivered a swift kick to the nation’s poor—especially those who had the misfortune to get sick. His administration’s 1981 budget imposed deep cuts on Medicaid, adding to financial pressures on states to narrow eligibility and punting some 600,000 beneficiaries out of the program early in the decade. A 1983 study in The New England Journal of Medicine examined the health consequences of Medicaid cuts in California, where coverage was eliminated for 270,000 people. One study subject who lost coverage died of a brain bleed (she couldn’t afford the blood pressure-lowering medications that might have prevented it), another of a stomach ulcer (he spit up blood for 10 days before seeking care, fearing ER bills), and a third of a probable heart attack (he ran out of heart medications which he couldn’t afford to refill). This episode is of more than historic interest: We are now about six months into our own version of what experts are calling a great “Medicaid unwinding.”
In April, the pandemic-era “continuous coverage provision”—which compelled states to keep Medicaid beneficiaries continuously insured for the duration of the Covid-19 public health emergency, greatly boosting enrollment—expired. This has already led to the disenrollment of nearly 8 million beneficiaries from the program, with predictable results. For example, Patricia Jones, a 62-year old West Virginia woman with heart problems and a recent bloodstream infection, was recently dropped from Medicaid because the $1,765 a month she was getting in disability survivor’s benefits after her husband died in March was $149 too high to qualify, The Washington Post recently reported. (She has yet to find alternative coverage.) Experts predict that as many as 24 million enrollees might lose their coverage by the time the unwinding is done.
These giant numbers dwarf the coverage losses of the early 1980s, and widespread harm is sure to follow. But the so-called “Medicaid unwinding” isn’t as new as it may seem. Before the pandemic, large numbers of people lost Medicaid coverage every year, thanks to shifting eligibility at the margins and administrative snafus. This feature—inherent to many means-tested programs—has always compromised coverage and caused suffering for those who depend on this critical program. Such discontinuities in coverage are all too common in the fragmented American insurance system, and they undermine the very essence of what medical care can do.
Ipractice ICU medicine in Massachusetts, a state where only 2.5 percent of residents are uninsured—and which might hence be counted as the ultimate American health coverage success story. I no doubt see less medical deprivation than my colleagues in states like Texas, where the uninsured rate hovers around 18 percent. Still, I see how discontinuities in coverage entrenched by a patchwork system affect my patients’ lives. Those gaps can precipitate potentially deadly ruptures of care. Inability to fill an insulin prescription because of a lapse or change in coverage, for instance, can provoke acute, even life-threatening diabetic emergencies that land a patient in the ICU.
Even when coverage interruptions aren’t acutely life-threatening, they invariably detach patients from the healthcare system and erode the ongoing mutual project that ought to be the bedrock of effective medical care. Most of the benefits of modern healthcare, after all, emerge not from emergency care provided in places like ERs or ICUs, as important as that is. Rather, health is protected through long-standing therapeutic relationships between patients and primary care physicians that allow medical problems to be recognized and chronic problems carefully managed. Patients with untreated high blood pressure who are excluded from such care, for instance, may experience a slow and silent deterioration of their kidney and heart function—until the day fluid fills their lungs and they wind up in an ICU seeing someone like me. Ongoing relationships with trusted primary care providers can likewise help assure many of the safety—or the urgency—of interventions like Covid-19 vaccination. Those excluded may pay the price, winding up with severe, life-threatening Covid pneumonia in the ICU.
Numerous studies bear this out. One study, for instance, found that about a quarter of low-income individuals experience coverage disruptions over the course of a year; individuals with such interruptions in coverage are more likely to have to change doctors or prescriptions, to skip doses of their medications, to go the ER, or to report worse health compared to those with continuous coverage. Even though the Covid-19 vaccines were free, colleagues and I found that health coverage and access to care are associated with higher booster uptake. Another of our studies identified a sharp rise in hospitalizations for diabetic emergencies when teens became young adults in the US—a time of frequent coverage disruptions—but not in Canada, where insurance is universal and seamless across the life course.
Other work highlights the critical importance of a relationship with a primary care physician—precluded by lapses or even changes in coverage. A clinical trial published decades ago found that older veterans who were randomized to “continuous” primary care (i.e., seeing the same provider regularly) spent fewer days in the hospital and the ICU than those who were randomized to discontinuous care. This year, a quasi-experimental study found that when Medicare beneficiaries lose their primary care physician, they experience a 3 percent increase in hospital admissions and a jaw-dropping 4 percent increase in mortality. Medical care that is disjointed and discontinuous, that is to say, may not amount to care at all.
Since its inception, Medicaid has been on the front lines of the battle for an American welfare state. In 1964, Democrats swept the midterm elections, giving them the congressional majorities they needed to finally realize long-fought-for healthcare reform. The following year, President Lyndon Johnson signed both Medicare and Medicaid into law. Medicare was designed in the universal social insurance mold: It provided something of a national statuary right to healthcare for almost all older Americans. Medicaid, in contrast, entered the world as a means-tested program, partially funded (and controlled) by states, with eligibility initially generally confined to the so-called “categorically needy”—individuals who were not merely poor but who also participated in certain welfare programs. While Medicaid’s out-of-pocket payments are generally low or even zero, the program provides access to a narrower scope of providers compared to traditional Medicare. Medicaid is also subject to the whims and prejudices of state lawmakers, who have significant latitude to cut eligibility criteria or benefits, sometimes cruelly. Still, since its inception, Medicaid program has greatly expanded, and improved—particularly as a result of the President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act, which was designed to make all low-income individuals eligible.
The expansion of Medicaid has had large, extensively documented benefits: it improves access to healthcare services and health itself, and, indeed, has saved numerous lives. Still, the much-needed rise in participation achieved by the continuous coverage provision—enrollment rose from 71 million to 94 million from January 2020 to April 2023—was at the same time a testament to how much “churn,” or movement in-and-out of the program, occurs outside plague years when such protections are not in play. Small increases in family income can render someone ineligible for Medicaid. Moving states can provoke disenrollment. There are sometimes burdensome administrative hurdles to enrollment, which can be particularly challenging for workers with unsteady employment or income or otherwise tenuous life circumstances. Annual eligibility redeterminations can result in disenrollment if forms are not properly completed, or when they are sent by state agencies to the wrong address.
A string of news stories before the pandemic revealed how common such disenrollment normally is, at least in many states. In 2018, some 70,000 people, mostly children, were dropped from Missouri’s Medicaid program, mostly “because they failed to reply to a mailed renewal form,” according to NPR. A 2019 story in The Texas Tribune described how the state used an automated system to check family income multiple times a year to validate children’s ongoing eligibility, which caused thousands of children to lose coverage every month, sometimes in error. The same year, The Tennessean reported that 120,000 had been dropped from Tennessee’s Medicaid program since 2017: “Nearly all of these disenrollments occurred when the state government processed insurance renewals with an outdated system of paper forms and postal mail,” the paper noted. Similarly, in Idaho, a large number of children were dropped from Medicaid in the years before the pandemic thanks to a more onerous state enrollment system that was at least in part driven by guidance from the Trump administration, ProPublica found. None of these are aberrations: one recent study found that Medicaid participants have a roughly 20 percent chance of having a lapse in coverage over a given two-year period.
Just how many victims of today’s “Medicaid unwinding” will find alternate coverage and how many will remain uninsured isn’t yet clear. But there’s little doubt that many will be harmed. Research has found that Medicaid expansion saves lives; it is a reasonable extrapolation of these findings to say that contraction will take some.
The continuous coverage provision should be seen as two things at once: a successful example of what action born of an emergency can achieve, but also an indictment of the pre-pandemic status quo. Uniquely among high-income nations, we allow our residents to periodically, and protractedly, lose healthcare, and to suffer as a result. Achieving the goal of universal coverage is a moral imperative. Yet any vision of universal healthcare worthy of the name must provide seamless, cradle-to-grave healthcare to everyone. Without continuity, there is, far too often, no care at all.
Copyright c 2023 The Nation. Reprinted with permission. May not be reprinted without permission. Distributed by PARS International Corp.
Adam Gaffney is a critical care physician and an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.
Carl Davidson: "we all should understand this, because its OUR story as well, and deeply do. But you have to make a decision. Do you stand with Andy Jackson? Or walk with those on 'The Trail of Tears'?
Netanyahu's provocation. Netanyahu's war.
OCT 8, 2023
My drawing from 2015.
Israeli and western media pretend to be shocked by the outbreak of war in Israel and Gaza.
But how much were the Palestinians, particularly but not exclusively in Gaza, supposed to endure? mNetanyahu will undoubtedly blame his security and military leaders for what is claimed to be their lack of preparedness. But this is a war Netanyahu has wanted and provoked and certainly must have expected.
Israel was never the democracy that its defenders constantly claim it to be. How could an apartheid state, one that denies the existence of the Palestinian people and their rights, be a democracy?
Like our own Donald Trump, Netanyahu has built a far-right coalition whose goal is to destroy whatever few Israeli institutions stand it their way of creating an even more theocratic fascist state while seizing more land to occupy.
The liberal Israeli newspaper, Haaretz, places the current violence directly on Netanyahu.
After his victory in the last election, he replaced this caution with the policy of a “fully-right government,” with overt steps taken to annex the West Bank, to carry out ethnic cleansing in parts of the Oslo-defined Area C, including the Hebron Hills and the Jordan Valley.
This also included a massive expansion of settlements and bolstering of the Jewish presence on Temple Mount, near the Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as boasts of an impending peace deal with the Saudis in which the Palestinians would get nothing, with open talk of a “second Nakba” in his governing coalition. As expected, signs of an outbreak of hostilities began in the West Bank, where Palestinians started feeling the heavier hand of the Israeli occupier.
There are reports this morning of over 600 dead with more to count and more to come.
Many are children.
Netanyahu says he wants more.
All with the support of the United States.
Campaigns and Movements:
How Are They Connected, How Do They Differ?
Bill Fletcher Jr.
October 6, 2023
“Beware of all simplistic calls that our urgent task is to ‘build a movement.’ That alone will get us swallowed in a swamp of spontaneity.”
Over the years, all of us on the Left have been engaged in a wide variety of mass movements —antiwar, labor, environmental, civil rights, women’s and gender rights, and more. Likewise, we have all taken part in public campaigns of various sorts, especially in the electoral arena—sometimes as organizers, other times as voters or endorsers at the grassroots, and still other times in large antiwar demonstrations, whether centered in one or two large cities, or held in cities, towns, and campuses across the country on a single day.
We know movements and campaigns are interconnected, often in profound ways. But for the moment, let’s look at how they differ at the extremes. Movements, first of all, reside on the ground of longstanding injustices—enslaved people held in bondage, women denied agency and autonomy against patriarchy, workers stressed to the point of exhaustion and cruelty to their families, peasants and farmers pressed to produce over their ability to reproduce, and many more. These can simmer for long periods, mainly outside the realm of public discourse.
But at specific points, activating events take place. They can come from above, inflicted by the upper classes or their agents. The killing of George Floyd is a recent case in point. There was little unusual about his killing. Such killings have happened many times in poor communities of color. When everyone got up that morning, no one imagined what they would see by evening. Within a week, we saw the largest multi-racial uprising against police violence and white supremacy in our history. Not all risings succeed in precisely this way. At times, an activating event can light the sky momentarily, then sputter out quickly, divided from within, or nipped in the bud from without.
Whether ripe or green, the activating event usually starts from below and spreads via the mass media of the day. Four young African American students in 1960 sat in at a Greensboro, NC, Woolworth’s counter insisting on service that crossed the color line. They were tormented for days, but national TV coverage spread the word from one college town to another. To use Mao Zedong’s apt phrase, “a single spark can start a prairie fire.” The perverse frat boy attacks on the nonviolent Greensboro students and the videotaped suffocating death of George Floyd launched wave after wave of angry protests.
What immediately follows such trigger events is mainly unexpected, at least in scope: the birthing of a mass movement as an elemental rising, an event that no one had planned ahead or expected to break out on that day. Mass movements tend to be less hierarchical and more decentralized in their organizational structure. They may involve a wide array of individuals, groups, and organizations with varying levels of coordination. Therein resides one significant difference between mass social movements and political campaigns.
Campaigns are planned and organized well in advance, often meticulously, and at some expense. On one hand, the work of campaigns steadily proceeds over weeks, months, and years. On the other hand, movements as elemental risings pass through several phases or tendencies. On the upswing, we see the coalescence of groups, coalitions, and networks, then bureaucratization, as they become well-funded and “professional.” At the peak, they face partial achievements of victory or the danger of co-optation.
In their most advanced cases—the Reconstruction governments in the South of the 1870s, the Paris Commune, the Russian ‘soviets’ of 1905 and 1917, the Italian factory councils of 1919, the Flint, Michigan sit-down strikes of 1937, and more—these risings portended the future of a new order as well as a radical rupture and protest against the old. Nonetheless, the upheavals still peaked and slid into decline. The reason? Elemental risings operate as waves, first flowing, then cresting, then ebbing—at least until the cycle returns and the wave flows and rises again.
Unlike mass movements, campaigns are rarely spontaneous. A campaign is a focused and specific effort to achieve a particular objective. Campaigns are generally more targeted and may involve a narrower group of participants compared to mass movements. They are planned by an often-militant minority with a variety of means to mobilize a more significant progressive majority or near-majority to win a strike, an election, or other change in the legal and social order. They start with organization, first with an inner core, then adding an array of instruments: media and publicity, petitions, outreach, fundraising, recruitment of additional staff, divisions of labor, deployment of volunteers, and coalition-building with allies. They can grow in scope from one area or region to reach across a country or even the globe. But they can also end abruptly when they win an objective or lose their funding.
As noted, campaigns are best developed within movements. But if we just say, “We have to build a movement” to define our task ahead, we are missing something essential. Lacking major sources of big money or established incumbencies, the working class and the oppressed require organization as their primary weapon. We can indeed “fan the flames,” which, to some degree, can prolong or spread a movement. But it is primarily by building campaigns that we construct the organizations that can ride past the rise and fall of one mass upsurge and reconnect it with the next wave to rise.
We need to not just win redistributive reforms or end a war. We need to alter relations of power and governance so our organizations grow stronger with each wave and eventually gain the ability to take power altogether. Even more so, we will need ‘organizations of a special type’ that will help usher in a new order and defend it against those who would undermine or sabotage it, taking us backward.
One great danger on the Left has historically been “voluntarism.” Voluntarism is a tendency to believe “…if there is a will, there is a way” and ignore anything approaching a concrete analysis of current conditions, including resources and the state of activity. There are moments when, in a given situation, the “…wood is too wet” to light into flames. In other words, the conditions for either a campaign OR a movement do not exist. This means that leftists must pay attention to what is happening among the people and not assume that their own actions can substitute for the actions of the real leaders of various constituencies.
What do we mean by “real leaders?” This is not a moral or moralistic category. “Real leaders” refers to individuals who have actual followings, irrespective of whether they think of themselves as leaders or have a title. “Real leaders” within the working class and within progressive social movements may be activists. Or they may be those to whom people go for advice. It is the real leaders that become critical in understanding whether the conditions are ripe for enhancing the development of a movement because they—the real leaders or the leaders with a small “l”—will be central to any sort of eruption.
Campaigns can help ignite movements
Campaigns do not operate in a vacuum, nor are they irrelevant in helping to spark a movement and/or contributing to the development of a movement. The “Double V” effort during World War II (Victory over Fascism abroad; Victory over Jim Crow at home!) combined a campaign and a budding movement. It was primarily advanced by Black newspapers and caught on like wildfire. It contributed toward developing the Black Freedom struggle’s Civil Rights phase, which would emerge in the next decade. Something similar could probably be said about the “March on Washington Movement” initiated by A. Phillip Randolph in 1941, i.e., it was a campaign that morphed, then stalled, but still contributed to the evolution of the Black Freedom struggle.
The anti-apartheid support movement in the U.S. had gone through ups and downs since the late 1940s (when apartheid was introduced in South Africa). Throughout that period, there were specific campaigns, e.g., calling for various US-based corporations to cease doing business with South Africa. There were times when there was the gelling of a movement, e.g., after the 1964 SDS sit-ins at Chase Manhattan Bank, noting the fifth anniversary of the Sharpsville massacre, and after the 1984 sit-ins at the South African embassy in Washington, DC.
Social movements will emerge; we just cannot predict when
Due to the reality of capitalism and oppression, we know that progressive social movements shall arise and/or become reinvigorated. History demonstrates this time and again. What cannot be predicted is when. As noted above, there have been countless examples of police killings over the decades. There was no particular reason to believe that the murder of George Floyd would ignite the movement we witnessed. To understand why it happened, we must always factor in the totality of the moment or, to borrow from the French Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser, recognize that the moment is overdetermined. There is no linear situation. Thus, the murder of George Floyd was taking place at the tail-end of the Trump administration, at a moment when the COVID-19 pandemic was also ravaging the country (and the world), and during warm weather as well. Each of these, more than likely, contributed to the type of explosion that we witnessed in 2020.
Therefore, sitting around attempting to predict the next upsurge or a new social movement is academic and wasteful. What is essential is being organizationally positioned to engage the moment. Among other things, this means ensuring that organized leftists are deeply rooted in progressive struggles such that they can unite with the ‘leaders-with-a-small-“l”‘ among the masses to not only advance a movement or upsurge, but also work to consolidate victories. Indeed, one of the key negative lessons from the 2020 George Floyd upsurge is that the absence of substantial degrees of organization in the midst of an upsurge opens the gate for the Right to counterattack when the progressive social movement or rising declines. And, in the absence of organization, the oppressed have nothing with which to advance much of a defense.
In summary, mass movements and campaigns both involve organized collective action, but they differ in terms of scale, duration, goals, organization, tactics, and impact. Mass movements aim for broader societal change, while campaigns focus on achieving specific objectives within a defined timeframe. But beware of all simplistic calls that our urgent task is to ‘build a movement.’ That alone will get us swallowed in a swamp of spontaneity. We need organization at every level—community and labor, electoral or single issue, and never forget socialist organization. It is the one guided by a North Star that will guide us into a New World.
Featured image: 1963 March on Washington. Labor leader A. Phillip Randolph initiated the campaign for a March on Washington in 1941. It “morphed, then stalled, but still contributed to the evolution of the Black Freedom struggle.”
Monday, September 5, 2022
IT IS TIME TO ORGANIZE ALL WORKERS
Ten thousand times the labor movement has stumbled and bruised itself. We have been enjoined by the courts, assaulted by thugs, charged by the militia, traduced by the press, frowned upon in public opinion, and deceived by politicians. But not withstanding all this and all these, labor is today the most vital and potential power this planet has ever known, and its historic mission is as certain of ultimate realization as is the setting of the sun (Eugene V. Debs).
After World War I workers believed it was time to unionize everybody who worked. Some organizers came out of the American Federation of Labor (AFL), some were enthusiastic followers of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), some were members of the Socialist Party-- followers of Eugene V. Debs, and many were inspired by the Bolshevik Revolution. Workers launched two nationwide strikes in steel and meat packing.
The ruling classes responded with force and fraud. As to the former, they used a multiplicity of means to crush strikes and they jailed and deported known radicals. The United States government participated with other regimes to intervene in the Russian civil war and to isolate the new revolutionary government diplomatically and economically.
As to fraud, corporations initiated various worker-management schemes to mollify worker discontent: from sporting activities, to counselor home visits, to the establishment of human relations departments. Also, businesses embarked on a huge campaign to stimulate consumerism, including catalog purchases of products, to buying on time. to creating an automobile culture. Force and fraud worked. Labor union membership and worker militancy declined even though wages and working conditions did not improve substantially.
But by the late 1920s strikes in textile and mining occurred. With the onset of the Great Depression, radicals were organizing Unemployment Councils in urban areas. Dispossessed farmers began their long trek to the West Coast seeking agricultural work.
In 1934 alone, general strikes occurred in San Francisco, Minneapolis, Toledo and Akron Ohio. In the late 1930s, workers in South Bend, Indiana and Flint, Michigan added the “sit-down strike” to the panoply of militant tools used by workers to demand the right to organize unions, fair wages, health and safety at the workplace, and pensions. These led to four million workers joining CIO unions by 1940 in auto, steel, meatpacking, electronics, mining, and other sectors.
Many of labors’ goals were achieved by the 1950s. 1953 was the peak year for organized labor. Thirty-three percent of non-agricultural workers were organized. But then union membership began a slow but steady decline. Red baiting destroyed labor militancy. The new medium of television displayed images of enticing consumer goods. All this was exacerbated by the Reagan “revolution” which increased the strategies of force and fraud employed in the 1920s and late 1950s. Declining worker power was dramatic. Both Republican and Democratic administrations used administrative tools, out-sourcing of jobs, so-called free trade agreements, and outright banning of rights to collective bargaining in various sectors to crush unions.
But as history shows, workers from time-to-time fight back, regain the rights they lost in prior eras, and continue the process of pushing history in a progressive direction. The year, 2011 was such a time for fight back. Workers in Cairo, Madrid, Athens, and Wisconsin, Indiana, and all across the globe rose up.
Since then in the United States there has been a steady increased labor militancy among teachers, service workers, and health care professionals. Public sector workers in general have been hit very hard in recent years. Government officials have rationalized anti-labor legislation as necessitated by fiscal crises. But these fiscal crises lead not to the end to services but to their privatization. Teachers, librarians, fire fighters and others are laid off and replaced or rehired at wages a third less than they made as unionized public sector workers.
Recently, Chicago teachers have said no to this scam. They have been fighting against the privatization of public schools, demanding the maintenance of job security for teachers so they can continue to meet the needs of children, and standing up for the principle that all children, not just children of the wealthy, are entitled to the best education that the society can offer. They were particularly active in protecting the health of workers and students during the Covid crisis. And now just as before, workers’ demands have been beneficial for everybody.
Revisiting history can provide useful lessons from the past for the present. They are not specific roadmaps for action. But what the lessons of the past, the militancy of the last year including Amazon and Starbucks workers, nurses and teachers, suggest is that now is a good time to think about all workers--in factories, on construction sites, in coffee shops and fast-food restaurants, in offices, in universities, everywhere—organizing unions. There is power in the union.
Tributes to Charlene Mitchell: Organizer and Strategist for Freedom and Justice (New York, Committees of Correspondence Education Fund, 2023)
by William P. Jones
Crediting Mitchell with transforming the lives of people across the United States and “literally all over the world,” Davis pointed out that whether she was “out front” or doing “that invisible organizing work,” Mitchell was “totally satisfied to see the fruits of her labor unfold as they do without necessarily being singled out for her accomplishments.”
Thanks to Davis, and historians Genna Rae McNeil and Erik McDuffie, Mitchell was not completely overlooked when she passed away in December of 2022, at the age of 92. “Black Lives Matter and modern Black feminism stand on the shoulders of Charlene Mitchell,” McDuffie stated in a New York Times obituary that traced the roots of those contemporary movements to the National Alliance Against Racist and Political Repression, which Mitchell initiated to defend Davis and other Black radicals from persecution in the 1970s.
Further evidence of that influence is provided by Tributes to Charlene Mitchell: Organizer and Strategist for Freedom and Justice. Published by the Committees of Correspondence Education Fund, the volume contains statements from activists ranging from political prisoners including Davis, Ben Chavis and Frank Chapman to labor leaders like Bill Fletcher, Jr. and Coraminita Mahr; U.S. based scholars Lisa Brock, Bettina Aptheker, and Michael Honey, to South African radicals Chris Matlhako and Raymond Suttner.
Tellingly, the tributes emphasize Mitchell’s personal warmth and interest in individual lives as much as her tremendous skill as an organizer and advocate. “What I have most appreciated over these years is her amazing ability to discover ethical connections between the political and the personal, the global and the local,” Davis writes; “I don’t think I have ever known someone as consistent in her values, as collective in her outlook on life, as firm in her trajectory as a freedom fighter.” California activist Jack Kurzweil writes, simply, “Charlene was the only person in my life who could phone me, tell me what to do, and have me do it right away.”
Born in Cincinnati during the Great Depression, Mitchell saw from an early age how the criminal legal system targeted Black people for their political beliefs as well as their race and poverty. At the 2009 tribute, Genna Rae McNeil recounted one of Mitchell’s earliest memories of visiting her father, a Pullman Porter and laborer who was jailed for union organizing after moving the family to Chicago. At the age of 13, she joined the Communist-affiliated American Youth for Democracy and led a protest that ended racial segregation at a local theater. Inspired by Communists’ opposition to racism and economic exploitation, she joined the party in 1946, when its membership peaked at 75,000, only to be forced underground to avoid arrest as government repression and disillusionment with the Soviet Union depleted its ranks in the 1950s.
Mitchell’s attention to the intersections between race, class and imperialism helped renew the Communist movement among young radicals in the 1960s. Moving to Los Angeles, she established a Black chapter of the party named for Argentine and Congolese revolutionaries, Che Guevara and Patrice Lumumba, and travelled widely to establish ties between the US party and anti-colonial activists in Africa and Latin America. She ran for President on the Communist ticket in 1968, on a platform of peace in Vietnam, racial equality, and economic justice for all.
She received barely a thousand votes but drew far more attention to the party by leading Angela Davis’ defense. An assistant professor at the University of California, Davis was fired due to her membership in the Communist Party, and after protests secured her reinstatement, charged with providing weapons to a younger activist who killed a judge in a desperate attempt to free his older brother from prison. Placing the case in a broader context of a racially and economically biased criminal legal system, Mitchel stated; “Angela Davis struggles especially for the freedom of political prisoners, and the ending of a prison system of which a major aim is to punish people on the basis of their color and their class, a prison system that attempts to dehumanize rather than rehabilitate, a prison system that intensifies the inherent racism of U.S. capitalism.”
Building an international campaign that secured Davis’ acquittal in 1972, Mitchell established the National Alliance Against Racism and Political Repression to defend Black radicals against the rising backlash of the 1970s and 1980s. These included civil rights leader Benjamin Chavis, who was sentenced along with nine others to 29 years in prison on evidence later shown to have been fabricated; Assata Shakur, a Black Liberation Army militant who was imprisoned under conditions that the UN Commission on Human Rights called “totally unbefitting any prisoner;” and Joan Little, who was charged with murder for killing a guard who attempted to rape her in a jail cell.
The National Alliance also supported activists targeted for their roles in the Puerto Rican independence movement and the American Indian Movement and played a central role in building international pressure to free Nelson Mandela and other anti-apartheid leaders in South Africa.
Extending Mitchell’s analysis of Angela Davis’ situation, the National Alliance asserted an expansive view of political repression as targeting not just ideological dissent but any act of rebellion against an unjust society. Genna Rae McNeil explains that Mitchell brought a systemic analysis to Joan Little’s defense, arguing that her actions could not be understood in isolation from her gender, poverty and restricted access to education and employment. Insisting on Little’s right to defend herself from sexual assault, McNeil explained, the campaign defined political prisoners as “people who were in prison as a direct result of their political beliefs and activities as well as people who were caught up in a web of political repression and therefore victimized by the system.”
Some will rightly ask how Mitchell developed such a powerful critique of the U.S. legal system while seemingly ignoring political repression in the Soviet Union. It should be noted that she became a Communist during the Second World War, when the U.S. government allied with the Soviets in a war against fascism. It may be that she adopted a similar view of international Communism as a powerful ally rather than an exact model for a just society. It also makes sense that she prioritized the struggle for freedom in her home country, where she and her family and friends faced persecution and exploitation, over those abroad. Significantly, the Communist Party was one of the few multiracial organizations on the left that did not fracture along racial lines in the late 1960s and 1970s.
But we should also recall that Mitchell initiated the National Alliance in an era when the United States was emerging as an uncontested global leader in human caging. By the end of the 20thcentury, incarceration rates in the United States surpassed those of the Soviet Union at the height of the Gulag and of South Africa under apartheid. Her analysis of race and class has grown even more pressing with the rise of mass incarceration.
Ultimately, Charlene Mitchell joined others who were committed to reforming communism in both at home and abroad. Frustrated by nostalgia among older communists for the industrial working class, she pushed the party to embrace the opportunities created by the rise of an increasingly female and multi-racial workforce in the service economy. When reports of Glasnost and Perestroika began to circulate within the U.S. Communist Party, she assembled those who favored open discussion and support for democratic reform in the Soviet bloc. That led to Mitchell’s exclusion, along with Davis and others from party leadership. The sidelining of such prominent Black leaders was particularly offensive to those committed to multiracial organizing, leading to the resignation of nearly a third of party members. Joining with other leftists, the dissidents formed the Committees of Correspondence to rebuild a democratic and non-partisan left.
I was lucky to have the chance to work with Charlene during that period on campaigns to support unions of housekeeping and farm workers and to fight cuts to food and housing assistance programs in North Carolina. I witnessed firsthand her tremendous skill as an organizer, which drew not only on decades of experience and sharp analysis but also on rich networks of friends and allies that she seemed to have in cities and small towns across the state. I also benefited from the warmth and comradeship that resonate throughout the memories shared in Tributes to Charlene Mitchell. Charlene welcomed me into her home, showed me around her neighborhood in Harlem, and even organized a shower for my first child.
As Angela Davis pointed out in her 2009 tribute to Charlene, it is not the personal recognition of heroic acts that matters as much as the historical memory of collective action and what it accomplished. Tributes to Charlene Mitchell provides critical material for that historical memory, rooted in the reminiscences of those who worked closely with her over many decades. They remind us that collective action requires careful analysis and persistent organization, but also personal connection and understanding. For that model, as well as her contributions to the struggle for a better world, we should hold dear the memory of Charlene Mitchell.
[William P. Jones is Professor of History at the University of Minnesota and author of The March on Washington: Jobs, Freedom and the Forgotten History of Civil Rights.]
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ANDY CARTER, HELPING PRESERVE INDIGENOUS MAYA LANGUAGES
For thousands of years, the Maya people in Guatemala have spoken many indigenous languages, among them K’iche’ or Mam. When the Spanish conquered the region in the 16th century, they promoted Spanish as the national language and worked to suppress indigenous languages. That cultural oppression was but one arm of the campaign to oppress and weaken the Maya communities.
The oppression of indigenous Peoples in Guatemala continued into the 20th century in a civil war often referred to as the Dirty War. In a series of assaults between 1981 and 1982, the village of Saq Ja’ was completely destroyed by the Guatemalan military. Many villagers died in the attacks, while others joined the political resistance, fled into the mountains, or went to refugee camps in Central America. Among those who went into hiding was María Guadalupe and among those who fled Guatemala was Don Virgilio Vicente. In response to this humanitarian crisis, the Sanctuary Movement was formed in the 1980s to welcome Central American refugees into the United States. In 1986 Don Virgilio was taken into sanctuary at University Church in Chicago, Illinois.
In 1998 Andy Carter and his colleagues from the Sanctuary Movement at University Church in Chicago began sending yearly delegations to work in partnership with the people of Saq Ja’ to rebuild their village. On a delegation to Saq Ja’ in the spring 2007 Andy met Doña María Guadalupe, who told him of her father, Don Margarito Esteban Álvarez Velázquez, and his lifelong work of planting and nurturing a forest near his home in Saq Ja’.
Andy and his colleagues understood that one of the goals of the school in Saq Ja was to teach and preserve K’iche’, their native language. Working with Doña María Guadalupe, Andy crafted a children’s story about Margarito in K’iche’ for the village school.
He then contracted with the gifted artist Allison Havens to create illustrations for the book. To do this Allison asked children from the school in Saq Ja to draw images of local animals, plants and scenes after hearing the story of Margarito and his forest. Allison then used the children’s artwork along with her original drawings, paintings, and traditional and Mayan textiles to create the stunning illustrations for the book. With that done, El Bosque de Don Margarito, written in Spanish and K’iche’, was published in Guatemala in 2016.
Back in Chicago, Andy heard about Hard Ball & Little Heroes Press from a colleague in the Working Class Studies Association. He called the publisher and soon had a contract to publish El Bosque de Don Margarito in an English and Spanish version,. The text included side-bars of key phrases in K’iche, color coded for language exploration and appreciation.
After the publication of El Bosque de Don Margarito in 2016, with generous donations from friends and colleagues, the Maya Book Project (MBP) of University Church was founded in 2017. Since its beginning, the MBP has donated thousands of copies of El Bosque de Don Margarito to K’iche’ speaking communities in Guatemala. Andy then added a second version in Spanish and Mam, which along with the original Spanish K’iche' version, has been adopted for national distribution by the Guatemalan Ministry of Education.
Margarito’s Forest has done more than support the preservation of indigenous Mayan languages. The beautifully illustrated book also uses Maya numbering alongside the traditional Arabic numerals, providing an intriguing opportunity to explore different forms of numeration. The book includes an explanation of the Maya numeration, noting that the Maya discovered the concept of “zero” around the same time as the Muslim scholars in the Middle East.
More recently, the Maya Book Project partnered with Hard Ball Press in publishing two new editions of Margarito’s Forest. One is English-K’iche’ and the other is English-Mam. These new editions came about in response to requests from several K’iche’ and Mam speaking communities living in the US. The new editions are now in print and will be offered to schools and social justice organizations in North America at steep discounts.
Audio versions of the books, read in K’iche’, Mam, and Spanish are also available for free to any school. These audio books help Maya children learn to pronounce as well as read their native languages.
With great pride and humble gratitude, Hard Ball & Little Heroes Press and Andy Carter are publishing these two new editions of Margarito’s Forest in our continuing effort to help preserve the K’iche’ and Mam languages for children (and adults) in North America, Guatemala, and the world.
Timothy Sheard, editor, Hard Ball & Little Heroes Press
Timothy Sheard | 415 Argyle Rd., 6A, Brooklyn, NY 11218Unsubscribe jlynjenks@g
The Man Who Changed Colors
By Bill Fletcher, Jr.
When a dockworker falls to his death under strange circumstances, investigative journalist David Gomes is on the case. His dogged pursuit of the truth puts his life in danger and upends the scrappy Cape Cod newspaper he works for.
Spend a season on the Cape with this gripping, provocative tale that delves into the
complicated relationships between Cape Verdean Americans and African Americans, Portuguese fascist gangs, and abusive shipyard working conditions. From the author of The Man Who Fell From The Sky.
“Bill Fletcher is a truth seeker and a truth teller – even when he’s writing fiction. Not unlike Bill, his character David Gomes is willing to put his life and career in peril to expose the truth. A thrilling read!” − Tavis Smiley, Broadcaster & NY TIMES Bestselling Author
Review by John Bachtell
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From Upton Sinclair's 'Goose Step' to the Neoliberal University
Essays on the Ongoing Transformation of Higher Education
By Daniel Morris
and Harry Targ
Paperback USD 17.00
This is a unique collection of 15 essays by two Purdue University professors who use their institution as a case-in-point study of the changing nature of the American 'multiversity.' They take a book from an earlier time, Upton Sinclair's 'The Goose-Step A Study of American Education' from 1923, which exposed the capitalist corruption of the ivory tower back then and brought it up to date with more far-reaching changes today. time. They also include, as an appendix, a 1967 essay by SDS leader Carl Davidson, who broke some of the original ground on the subject.
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From the CCDS Socialist Education Project...
A China Reader
Edited by Duncan McFarland
A project of the CCDS Socialist Education Project and Online University of the Left
244 pages, $20 (discounts available for quantity), order at :
The book is a selection of essays offering keen insight into the nature of China and its social system, its internal debates, and its history. It includes several articles on the US and China and the growing efforts of friendship between the Chinese and American peoples.
Taking Down White Supremacy
A Reader on Multiracial and Multinational Unity
Edited by the CCDS
Socialist Education Project
166 pages, $12.50 (discounts available for quantity), order at :
This collection of 20 essays brings together a variety of articles-theoretical, historical, and experiential-that address multi-racial, multi-national unity. The book provides examples theoretically and historically, of efforts to build multi-racial unity in the twentieth century.
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Vijay Prashad, “The Rise of ‘The Darker Nations’ in the 21st Century:
Responses to Crises of War, Poverty,
and Environmental Disaster
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